Anniversary Service, November 20, 2016: Siyahambe!
Never underestimate the power of spiritual gatherings. That is one of my thoughts following the 40th anniversary service at Mill Woods United on November 20.
There was so much that I loved about that gathering: the 12 minute slide-show created with care and dedication by Brian Sampson; the presence of 13 of the 48 charter members from 1976; the words of appreciation — by Janice Martin upon being recognized for 25 years of service as Office Administrator; by Tazvi Nyarota of the United Methodist Church of Zimbabwe; by MLA Christina Gray; and by Juan, Luis and Francisco Jr. Rico for being welcomed by the church 13 years ago; the sharing from three former ministers from the 80s, 90s, and 2000s: Tom Sawyer, Norm Macdonald and Dale Irving; the music of the choir, of the Zimbabwean congregation, and of soloist Nelson Nagrenda; the participation of children and youth under Bev Thompson’s direction; and the great spirit that prevailed during lunch in the Lower Hall.
Thanks to you everyone who helped with the day: Cathy Bayly and Lindy Mair for leading us off, Rob McPhee for being MC during the lunch; Heavenly Hospitality for serving lunch; Bryan LeGrow for leading us in music; Paula Kirman for taking photographs and doing such a great job of promoting the event on both traditional and social media; those who sent greetings by mail; and all 175 of us who gathered. Together we created an experience that showed the strength of this community of faith. I am also happy that CTV Edmonton wove footage of the service into its report on Transgender Day of Remembrance and highlighted the story of our own AJ Janewski. Thank you AJ for yourself and your advocacy, and to everyone who makes Mill Woods United such a diverse, welcoming and evolving church.
Celebrations like the one on November 20 accomplish a lot of things. They remind us of the joy that flows from the work of outreach, social justice, education, and worship. They reconnect us to sacred values of compassion, hospitality, and the search for beauty and truth. They inspire us to continue to be there for each other and our neighbours in times of trouble and triumph. They remind us that an inner flame of God’s Love flickers within each one of us.
Participating in the work of a church is not always easy. Walking the line between enthusiasm and burnout can be tricky. Being present to the moment involves both joy and grief. Figuring out what is going on in our hearts, in the neighbourhood and in the world is complex, and differences in perspectives are inevitable. Keeping a church firing on all cylinders but also financially viable is a constant struggle of both administration and inspiration.
But we did it. We made it through 40 wonderful years, and we celebrated this milestone. May this anniversary gathering fill us with new energy for today and with hope for the future in both church and world — Ian
Click on this link to open the January 2017 issue of “In Contact,” an Albertan supplement to the United Church “Observer,” to read another report on the 40th anniversary service. (Note: the link opens an eight-page PDF file. The article is on page four.)
Greetings received for the 40th
As well as the in-person greetings and memories mentioned above, we received best wishes by mail from many invitees who couldn’t make it. Some of them are copied below . . .
Rev. Shelagh Parsons
I do regret that I am unable to attend your celebration today. I had it on my calendar and made plans to come but family and health matters have interfered sending these plans askew.
Although my times with the congregation were brief in nature, I have fond memories of my time spent with you; first a short stint (85 I believe), sharing the house with Tom Sawyer and then a later two-year interim with Southwood’s congregation (89-91).
The former brings forth memories of a Passover Celebration in the house with no room to spare. I was so surprised that so many decided to attend on Maundy Thursday. Following that was the Easter Sunrise service with the youth group on the little knoll behind the house. The sun was absent, my fingers just about fell off playing my guitar attempting to sing “Morning has Broken” and a little further on in the service “Lord of the Dance”. We were dancing alright with the cold wind and snow that decided to engage us. Yet there were at least 30 people if not more that came to be supportive. We finished quickly and ran for the house to crowd in and have toaster waffles. Don’t remember eating any but sure remember the coffee. Everything was less than perfect or even moderately good but all was embraced with heart.
The two-year interim was a difficult time for Southwoods; their minister Dan Newell was off on disability leave. I do recall the ‘dunk tank’ at the community fair for which I was the subject. Again, it was a cold Sept. day. It would have been great had Kim’s wet suit fit but alas it did not. I would have done OK if it wasn’t that so many were good at throwing a baseball and hit the mark.
The ‘dunk tank’ was probably appropriate to describe the interim at that time. Interim is to help in transition and this was one filled with grief and anger. Target practice was sometimes a necessary reality. However, the goodness of the folks and memories of a small but amazing choir are still with me. In fact, each year come Christmas, as I will this year, I pull out my Southwood’s Christmas CD and enjoy once again the wonderful music.
Thank you all for the memories; and again, I am truly sorry I will not be able to make it to your anniversary celebration. May you be blessed and the sacred of life continue to engage you today and always.
Rev. Deanna Cox
Dear Worship Team,
Thank you so much for the invitation to celebrate your 40th Anniversary as an official pastoral charge. It was my honour to be a part of your faith community during the six years that I served as youth minister (1997-2003). You continue to hold a special place in my heart. Looking back now you were an instrumental part of my journey towards ministry. You were the faith family environment that I longed for, a place of spiritual growth for our whole family, and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to get to know you as I did.
I regret that I am unable to be with you as you gather to celebrate. It would have been wonderful to see you all again, to show off how our family has grown, and to be able to thank and congratulate you in person. However, the calling that you helped identify in me means that I am leading worship in my own congregations that day. Know that I will be holding you and your ministry in my prayers that day.
Thanks for the gifts your ministry have shared with the world.
Congratulations on your 40th anniversary.
Many blessings as you continue to share the Good News with your corner of the world.
Rev. Deanna Cox
Rev. Wim Kreeft
Mill Woods United Church
My connection with you runs deep.
Joy and I joined the Southwoods United Church in 1991. In 1992 Southwoods, with the leadership of Rev. Bob Harper, became my sponsoring congregation as I began my foray into ministry. On August 13, 1994 Joy and I were married in First Mill Woods United Church. In September of 1994 I began my 8-month internship at First Mill Woods with Rev. Tom Sawyer.
Southwoods and First Mill Woods were most generous with their love and support. I was encouraged and nurtured by these two wonderful congregations and by the leaders, both lay and ordered, who guided me on my journey.
As you have held the candle of God’s love for me, I’m certain you have done so for countless others. I pray that your 40th anniversary service is filled with wonderful memories.
Rev. Wim Kreeft
Centennial United Church
Rev. Armand Houle
Greetings to My Friends at Mill Woods United Church
It is with much joy that I wish you all the best on your 40th Anniversary.
I have many fond memories of my four years with you as your minister. From the Bread Run to the Mitten Tree, from the Heavenly Hospitality Group to the Men’s Breakfast, from the Food Bank to the Clothing Bank, from GEA to a budding relationship with the Papaschase First Nation, from all the wonderfully faithful people to all the other wonderfully faithful people in the congregation, I give thanks for my ministry in your midst.
Even as I give thanks for all these wonderful memories there are two events that stick out in my mind that I would like to mention.
The first was the formation of the Community Garden. What an exciting time it was to see the front lawn of the church transformed into shared garden space to be used by the community.
The other was the beginning of the “Little Green Thumbs Program.” The joy on the faces of the children as they gathered each week to learn about and tend their garden in the basement was amazing. Not to mention that it is not every minister who can say that there was a “grow-op,” in the church basement.
In all seriousness and sincerity, the greatest memory that I have is that the greatest strength of Mill Woods United is that it has always been, and continues to be, dedicated to being in and for the community locally and globally.
May the Holy Spirit continue to swirl in your midst as you continue to walk the way of disciples of Jesus.
Happy 40th Anniversary!
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Armand Houle
Virginia and Neal Palmer
Sonia, Andrew and I (Virginia) worshipped in First Mill Woods United Church at Hillview School the first weekend we arrived in Edmonton in 1989. We were welcomed warmly and stayed during the growing years of the kids and their involvement in Sunday School, the youth groups, the move to our new building, helping me with the Food Bank, attendance in a confirmation class, CGIT group and their Vesper Services, and leader of the Boys Group. Mill Woods United Church was our church home for many years, and I enjoyed my involvement on various committees, groups, and annual events. Sonia especially enjoyed her time with the confirmation class led by Rev. Norm McDonald.
My parents, George and Margaret Watt, began worshipping with us as a family at Mill Woods United Church when they moved to Edmonton in 1993 and also became involved in many activities and leading occasional worship services. It was a special and very sad honour to have both their funerals in Mill Woods United Church and be surrounded by so many of our church friends and feel their support and love at those times.
I [Neal] began worshipping at Mill Woods United in January of 2000. A time—between ministers. A time as well, to experience first-hand, the many gifts of the people there. Kim and Mitchell, in time, started coming as well, with Kim eventually singing in the choir, being mentored by wonderful people like Carole Kelly (and others.) Dale Irving arriving in August and introducing a theology I’d not been exposed to before. Leading me to some pretty serious questioning, at times discomfort, sometimes—even anger. Which, in time, led to a letter to Paul Verdin, Chair of the Board —asking that a discernment process be initiated to test what I suspected might be a call to ministry. Which, eventually, led to a discernment committee being formed—including Larry Garner, Renee Englot & Tim Janewski from the congregation here. That one year [plus] process was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.
Speaking of gifts, there are many, I’ve come to know in ordered ministry. But one not so great is, eventually, having to leave one’s church family. And that’s what happened in September, 2009, when my internship at Trinity United began.
Mill Woods United Church will always be a very special place for another wonderful reason. This is where we met, and then were married there in 2008, again surrounded by our church family and friends. We love to visit there whenever we can, although visiting on Sundays is now rather difficult, due to Neal’s ministry obligations.
We and our kids always feel as if we are coming home when we walk in the doors and see and feel the welcome, the familiar surroundings and the memories. We are so sorry we aren’t able to attend on November 20, 2016 as we would have loved to do so, but Neal, unfortunately, has Presbytery commitments in McLennan, Alberta that day.
Rest assured, though, we will be there in Spirit…
Virginia and Neal Palmer
Amarjett Sohi, MP, Edmonton Mill Woods
We wanted to extend our congratulations on your 40th anniversary milestone this weekend. Your ongoing commitment to the community and devotion is a wonderful testament to what makes Mill Woods wonderful to represent. We wish you all the best as you celebrate and look to the future.
On behalf of,
Amarjeet Sohi, MP
Edmonton Mill Woods
Fabulous Fall Frolic 2016
Changing the “constitution” of the United Church of Canada
After worship on Sunday, Sept 25, 2016, five people met in the Lounge to hear Ian give a presentation and lead a discussion on four “remits” that General Council has asked all congregations to vote on by spring 2017. They will be presented for a “yes/no” vote at the Annual Financial Meeting of Mill Woods United in February 2017.
The four remits are headlined as:
- Three Council Model (merging presbyteries and conferences)
- Elimination of “Transfer and Settlement” (making calling a minister easier)
- A new “Office of Vocation” for calling, training and disciplining ministers
- Change in funding — simplifying how levels of the church above congregations are funded.
For more information see gc42.ca/remits
Discussing theology — or the lack thereof!
On Thursday Sept 22, 20 members of Mill Woods United gathered in the sanctuary to share perspectives, comments and feelings about the United Church of Canada’s first ever heresy trial of Rev. Gretta Vosper of Toronto. This meeting followed a sermon on September 18 at MWUC that focused on the case.
Intercultural Ministry Picnic
The second annual picnic of the Intercultural Ministry Committee of Edmonton Presbytery took place at Rundle Park on July 9. Mill Woods is one of the congregations that is part of this ministry, and we enjoyed a fun time of food and fellowship.
June 26, 2016
Chief Calvin Bruneau of the Papaschase First Nation was our guest speaker during our morning service. The service focused on reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people one year after the publication of the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and 30 years after the United Church of Canada first offered an official apology to First Nations people. We also created “reconciliation hearts” to plant in our community garden on the front lawn of the church and a special offering was taken for the United Church’s Healing Fund. That evening, 30 people came to our free screening of the film Elder in the Making.
Worship in the Park
On June 19, we met at Gold Bar Park for our annual Worship in the Park. The theme of the potluck was “Back to the Future” to evoke memories of church camping weekends in the 80s and 90s as we launch into summer.
Chat with the Church Lady
On Saturday evening, June 11, Mill Woods United sanctuary was the site for an uplifting and fun drag show put on by The Imperial Sovereign Court of the Wild Rose. This first-ever drag show at the church was part of the Affirm Team’s celebration of the 10th anniversary of the vote to make Mill Woods United an Affirming ministry. From Gospel to Broadway, from drag kings to drag queens, the evening had it all.
Pride Parade 2016
Eight happy MWUC folk joined a large group of United Church people from other congregations on Saturday June 4 on Whyte Avenue. The Parade gets bigger every year, but the applause that greets church folk who affirm people of all sexual orientations and gender expressions never gets old. Thanks to everyone who came to the Parade, helped to organize it, and who walked in it. See you next year!
Annual General Meeting
Sunday May 15 — more later!
Affirming Anniversary — 10 years!
During worship on May 15, 2016 and as part of the sermon/reflection, Tim Janewski came forward to share some of the history of what led Mill Woods United to vote to become an officially affirming congregation and the impact that decision has had on our work as a community of faith and upon Tim’s family specifically. More late . . .
Boomers and Beyond — March-April 2016
information to assist with life events after you retire
Thank you to Linda Paddon! She spearheaded this three-part information series for seniors saw more than 60 people come to Mill Woods United in spring 2016.
- March 30: Support services for seniors in need: Kathleen Kelly from Sage Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton
- April 6,: Planned giving: Kathryn Hofley, Financial Development Officer for the United Church; and Legal matters faced by elders and their children: Andrew McLaughlin from Turning Point Law
- April 13: Funeral Planning: Scott Misick from Serenity Funeral Service; and Downsizing and preparing to move: Shannon Lang from Eldermove
Why did we put this information series together?
At Mill Woods United Church, we believe there is a need within the community to better understand some of the issues that arise with aging. Whether we are preparing for retirement or dealing with parents in their elder years, how do we access impartial information and supports?
The following statements are typical of the concerns we have heard:
- “I am newly retired. It seems that every time we get together with friends, we end up talking about declining parents.”
- “I was employed as an administrative associate at an investment firm. Too often I worked with executors who struggled with that role, or family members who knew nothing about their parent’s financial affairs when they needed to activate enduring powers of attorney.”
- “Because I used to be a long term care nurse, I get questions about where to go for help with the healthcare issues of elders.”
- “Our family needs to find new housing for a parent that can no longer live independently.”
- “Having struggled to help our parents down-size, we want to be better prepared so that our children don’t have to go through that!”
- “We have found ourselves planning a funeral only to realize that we don’t really know the person’s wishes.”
Planning for the future is a challenge since we don’t really know what kind of help we may need or when we will need it. Where can we go for help when a need arises? What aspects can we put in place ahead of time? It is far too easy to put off research and action until our need becomes urgent. At that point it could be too late, the stress would be huge, or worse yet, I may no longer be capable of making my wishes known.
The Boomers and Beyond speaker series was designed to share valuable information around aging issues. It occured on three Wednesday evenings at 7:30 in the sanctuary. It was free and came with no obligation. Presentations featured leading experts in seniors and aging issues. The format welcomed questions and includee discussion time to interact with the presenting expert.
April 4, 2016, Monday, 5 pm — ‘The Walrus’ talks spirituality
Six people gathered in the church Lounge for a live stream of an event in Toronto organized by the United Church ‘Observer’ and ‘The Walrus’ magazine. Leading thinkers examined faith, culture, community and the role of spirituality in our secular society:
• Nicole Brooks, creator
• Natalie Bull, executive director, The National Trust for Canada
• Lewis Cardinal, Cardinal Strategic Communications
• Timothy Caulfield, author
• Joan Garson, president, Holy Blossom Temple
• Michael Ingham, bishop and theologian
• Gretta Vosper, minister, United Church of Canada
Holy Week, 2016
Thursday, March 24, at 7 pm Mill Woods United Church and the Zimbabwean United Methodist Church in Edmonton held our first ever joint worship service. Rev. Ian Kellogg and Rev. Tazvi Nyarota co-presided at Holy Communion and a ritual of foot-washing to commemorate the Last Supper of Jesus and his friends.
Friday, March 25 at 10:30 am we held a solemn service of song and reflection to mark Good Friday. Maddi Ferguson provided violin music to enhance the worship experience.
Saturday, March 26, Bev Thompson led a Community Lunch at which 60 people enjoyed hot dogs and ice cream after our normal Saturday Bread Run. Thank you Bev!
Sunday, March 27 at 10:30 am, we held a joyous Easter Festival worship service marked by singing, movement, and lots of joyous Hallelujahs!
March 6, 2016, “Great Plains” Concert
About 40 people came out to Mill Woods United on a snowy evening to enjoying the eclectic and upbeat music of Darrel and Saskia Delaronde, aka, “The Great Plains.” Some money was raised for the church, the singing was well-received, and a good time was had by all. Thank you Darrel and Saskia!
“Reconciling Edmonton” Art Display, February 2016
From January 29th to February 22nd, 2016, Mill Woods United Church was pleased to host “Reconciling Edmonton,” a collaborative exhibit featuring:
- Paintings by 2015 Office of the City Clerk Artist-in-Residence Jennie Vegt
- Poetry by 2011-13 Edmonton Poet Laureate Anna Marie Sewell and 2014-15 Edmonton Historian Laureate Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail
- Collage prints featuring 1200 of the hearts created by Edmontonians to honour Indian Residential School Survivors, from the Heart Garden planted in June, at the close of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s national events
This project is the work of RISE (Reconciliation In Solidarity Edmonton) founded by Miranda Jimmy, the fourth key collaborator in Reconciling Edmonton.
Reconciling Edmonton debuted on November 25th, 2015 at an event that featured the first Round Dance to be held in City Hall, and continues to tour to various locations.
January 17, 2016: Welcome Potluck
Following the Sunday worship time of the Zimbabwean United Methodist Church (ZUMC), Heavenly Hospitality hosted a welcome dinner for ZUMC, who are now sharing our facilities. About 100 people came out: to welcome the Zimbabwean congregation; to celebrate the beginning of MWUC’s 40th anniversary year; to give thanks for the year past, and to look forward in hope to a new year. Before coffee, members of ZUMC led us in some lively singing and dancing.
Bewlow are three messages we received after the potluck. The first was from Rev. Tazvi Nyarota. She wrote:
Grace and peace to you all.
It is my great joy to write on behalf of The Zimbabwe United Methodist Church expressing our thankfulness to the welcome potluck dinner you hosted us. If there were other word besides “THANK YOU”, I would definitely use them so that you feel how grateful we are as a church. In our mother tongue, we have a saying that says, “relationships are fulfilled by sitting down and eat together” (that is when literally translated).
We feel welcomed and loved at the same time. May the good Lord continue to bless you and the ministry of the church. Once again, thank you for your love.
Another letter was from from Heavenly Hospital. Lynda Colgan wrote:
THANK YOU!!! to all those who participated in the POT LUCK WELCOME LUNCH with the ZUMC this past Sunday. As usual, the food was good and folks seem to enjoy the opportunity to share with our Zimbabwean friends. Greetings were exchanged and they presented our congregation with a large clock. Ian responded with humour that it would help ensure we were finished our service in time for them to start their service and everyone laughed. We especially enjoyed their singing and dancing to drums. Hopefully this event signifies a future of learning and sharing together!
Finally, here is a message from Brian Sampson, Mill Woods United Council Chairperson:
With a new year, MWUC also began a new association for our church. I am very pleased to report that we have successfully welcomed the Zimbabwean United Methodist Church into our facility.
Their congregation has access to our facility Sundays beginning 1200-1230 pm for their service. As well they have similar access to book the rest of the building as do MWUC members on a first-come basis. As of January 18, they have held 3 services on Sunday afternoons, their ladies group has used the lounge on Friday evenings, and the youth president has held a meeting on a Saturday morning and both congregations recently held a joint potluck dinner. They have placed their drums in the sanctuary and are temporarily storing some kitchen goods downstairs until we find a place for it. They will be sharing the lounge as office space as we now do. Future uses of the facility will be by mutually agreed prior arrangements.
In general we seem to be fitting together well.
Our church is again becoming a busy place and we are aware of the need for a liaison person. As per our Sharing Agreement with ZMUC —
MWUC and ZMUC shall each designate a person to meet with the other church every three months, or as needed, to communicate any issues or concerns arising under this Agreement in order to encourage a positive dialogue between the churches.
Since each church has its own decision-making structure, each church understands that these persons may not have decision-making authority, but instead shall serve as the primary communication vehicle between the churches.
For MWUC, this person would report to the Council. Temporarily, Ian and I are serving together as that contact person. We now need someone from MWUC to step forward to become that person or persons to ensure the positive dialogue continues and grows.
Ready for a new and exciting position in MWUC?
Contact Ian Kellogg 780.463.2202 or Brian Sampson 780.722.7946
January 16, 2016, Saturday evening — To Touch Our Souls II
About 10 people attended this post-Christmas, mid-winter pick-me up. It included a meditative walk on the labyrinth, gentle Yin-Yoga, a coffee and tea break with fruit and other snacks, and a screening of “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel II”!
January 6, 2016, Randy Round
The 2015 Budget approved by the Congregation on Feb. 13, 2015 assumed local receipts of $196,000 and expenses of $222,700 for a cash flow deficit of $26,700. The Budget included an assumption of a return to 2012 levels of local offerings ($150,000); maintaining the existing staffing levels; building rentals from existing groups; and, the addition of a new significant rental tenant – the Weight Watchers group for the January to May period.
Although various individual items were veering off budget during the year, until September 30, the $26,700 deficit was still seen as the likely outcome. Local offerings were well behind a pace that would see the budget target reached. This unfavourable trend was offset by the continuation of the Weight Watchers agreement throughout the balance of the year. As we had an “Available for Local Operations” cash on hand balance of $68,000 largely carried forward from the 2013 year where we had no minister salary or benefit costs, we were prepared to move forward on the set of assumptions presented.
Then came October! Several factors arose to drastically and favourably change the march towards the large deficit of $27,600 to, instead, a surprising surplus that will likely be finalized at around $5,000.
- The “Halloween Miracle”: Not waiting for a “Christmas Miracle,” October local offering amounts were almost double the average for previous months of the year. Although the nature of the increase is mostly “one-time,” it certainly helped the 2015 picture by offsetting the lagging contributions experienced prior to October. November and December offerings were also above average.
- Church usage: The budget approved in February 2015 included five months of a significant new rental revenue component. Although it meant giving up valuable time and control of our facility, the “trade-off” was a significant revenue stream to help offset the challenging deficit situation. That revenue stream, at that time, was anticipated to be for the first five months of the year. In fact, the rental arrangement remained in place for the full year, contributing a $16,800 favourable variance.
- Fabulous Fall Fun Frolic: A net contribution of just over $8,000 from this event filled out the fundraising “faith gap” and more.
- Mechanics of UCC Benefit Plan: As we all know, we have missed the services of our key administrative leader for almost half of the year. Janice’s administrative and creative contributions cannot be fully replaced, though many have been picked up by part-time paid staff, our Minister and volunteers. In the meantime, a reimbursement from the benefit plan based on a percentage of the regular salary for this position, resulted in a favourable salary expense variance of approximately $12,000.
The total impact of these factors is sufficient to offset the forecast $26,700 deficit and to provide a likely small surplus. Also, instead of the cash available balance of $68,000 being reduced to the $40,000 range, we now have a balance to carry forward of approximately $73,000. Instead of looking at a rather dismal picture of running out of cash within two years, we can now see a picture where deficits over the next few years, assuming our key assumptions remain constant, can be managed while the congregation’s path to the future evolves.
Zimbabwean congregation at MWUC
Starting on January 3, 2016, the Zimbabwean United Methodist Church in Edmonton (ZUMC) began to gather to study and worship in our sanctuary after 12 noon. Mill Woods United Church welcomes this new arrangement and sees it is as a blessing for both of our congregations.
ZUMC worships in the Shona language, but their times of study, song, and worship are open to anyone. All members of ZUMC speak English and they are happy to translate for non-Shona-speakers.
To celebrate this new arrangement, we will hold a potluck on Sunday afternoon January 17 at 3 pm. Watch this space for the final details! We will use this time to get to know each other a bit, to have fun, and to hear a few people from both congregations say a few words of encouragement and blessings on this new era for both our churches.
In 2016 and beyond, we hope to not only share our building but also to have times of study, worship, community outreach, and fellowship together.